Opening of tourism in Sagada too soon is uncertain

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SAGADA, Mtn. Province – Are you ready?

That was the common query posed by the Department of Tourism and by visitors during the dry run conducted on August 26-28, 2021 at Sagada supposedly to gauge the preparedness of the municipality in opening for tourism.

The dry run was to assess the preparedness of the municipality before it opens for tourism from online registration of guests and tourists, entry points or checkpoints to the assessment of entry protocols up to the registration for accommodations.

Before the assessment on the third day, selected invited guests and visitors representing the Department of Tourism–Cordillera, Provincial Tourism Office, the tour operators in the region, media representing various outfits in the region, the municipal government, and local tour guides visited the tourism attractions in the municipality.

These visits were to evaluate the readiness of the destinations in accepting tourists and visitors.

In the assessment meeting, DOT OIC Director Jovy Ganongan posed a direct question to the local participants: Are you ready? The question was met with squeezing eyes searching for certainties and assurances.

Some glitches in the online registrations were noted and the local tourism staff directly involved voiced out assurances for improvement.

But the glaring deficiency is with the accommodation sector. There are reportedly only 10 accommodations that are compliant with DOT accreditations out of the 172 accommodation establishments. Only 3 souvenir shops were accredited out of many that lined up the road prior to the pandemic.

Thus, if tourism would be opened this time, would the 10 compliant establishments be enough to accommodate tourists? Would tourists be allowed to stay in accommodations without Certificate of Compliance with DOT accreditations in the event that the compliant accommodations cannot accommodate them? These are the questions that bugged the participants.

Marites Abad, the Municipal Tourism Action Officer, clarified that the number of compliant accommodation is true for this time, but that additional accommodations are now complying with the requirements needed to operate.

She said that the stakeholders will be meeting soon with the MIATF and local officials to look into the possibility of opening tourism for the renowned municipality.

Another concern is that only 2,000 individuals were vaccinated out of 8,000 targeted population. This is far from the herd immunity needed. Visitors coming in may be carriers of the dreaded virus that the local residents are wary about.

As to the question of which shall prevail, the health or livelihood of the local people persists during the consultation meeting. There should be no question on this as the participants acknowledge that livelihood is important but the health of the people is also the primary consideration.

Mayor James Pooten, Jr., in an interview heard over the Bombo Radyo last week, cautioned visitors and tourists and even Isagada who want to come home. “If the travel is not that essential, please do not come,” he said.

He said that opening Sagada to tourism will be decided on later with the involvement of the stakeholders, municipal IATF, and the municipal officials in consideration of the prevailing Coronavirus updates.

Meanwhile, DOT OIC Director Jovy Ganongan and the provincial government defer the decision to local government units whether to open their respective municipalities for tourism or not. By ROGER SACYATEN

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